Monday, January 10, 2011

Sheet mulch, sheet mulch, dirty wormy fun mulch!

Hooray! We have begun our sheet mulch!! (two great resources about sheet mulching: Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Homescale Permaculture and Lasagna Gardening)

After acquiring the amazing mulch complex (sort of like the sixth sense but instead of seeing dead people you see lots of free sources of sheet mulch) and stacking straw bales, cardboard boxes and newspaper sky high, along with some soil amendments. It was finally time to lay it all out. Oddly enough we started late in the afternoon of the Winter Solstice/Full Moon/Total Lunar Eclipse!! Definitely a good omen!
Here’s what we did:

Step One
Drawing Board
The very first step we did was draw up a garden plan. I made a sketch of the backyard and the areas where things were, what spots were shady at certain times of day and where water might collect in pools etc. We also marked out where we administered a couple pH tests and where soil samples were taken from.

In the Yard
We began by using a rake and scratching out all of the pathways that we were going to be walking on, so essentially what didn’t need to be mulched. We wanted to make sure we weren’t wasting materials on an area that didn’t really need them. (hey, when you don’t have a job its your job to be frugal!) From our pH test we found that our soil was very acid so we sprinkled  on palletized lime to neutralize the acid. We also raked on a thin layer of Black Kow composted cow manure. The sheet mulch recipe called for a thin layer of hi-Nitrogen material.
Well you can't discern much from this picture but trust me
I raked in some compost!
Step Two
In the Yard
Cardboard time! We began to lay out the cardboard overlapping edges by about 6 inches to prevent the grass/weeds from popping thru. We also covered other gaps (our boxes had holes for handles) with the newspaper and wetted it all down. (TIP: work like you are painting a floor, so you try not to step on the work you just did, and don’t paint yourself into a corner!)
D is wetting down the cardboard so it stops blowing
Step Three
In the Yard
Another thin layer of Black Kow or any hi-Nitrogen material. We also added a peat moss to the section with the white bag in front of it just for a little more material. Also included in step three was chasing Bella Sue around on and off the cardboard as she collected poo poo on her paws and seemed to be magically inspired by the sprinkling water to tear around at mach 12 on the boxes, avoiding use of the paths and becoming more excited when we told her to get off and thus perpetuating the poo poo paws circle. (it was really hilarious to watch!)
Cow Poo Poos on the cardboard!
Step Four
In the Yard
Straw fun time! We got to tear apart our straw bales into one or two inch “books” (because obviously when the worms come up they need something to read!) watered as we went (to the wrung out sponge consistency, or at least as best we could tell in the dark with chilly fingers!) then came back with another layer. All of our straw bales weren’t baled really well so some areas were more fluffy. 

Our compost is magical, that's why it's blue. tee hee
(its right there near the free broken red shovel we found)

Good girl Bella Sue! ...this time.... :)

We are going to go to our local yard waste facility and borrow some very sweet friends' truck and pick up some loads of topsoil and mulch to finish it off although I think we just want top soil because we just covered all ours up! It is much cheaper than buying bags and bags of stuff though and we need a bit more material to get to the 18-24" mark, so topsoil and wood chip mulch it is! $10 a truckload sounds pretty appealing.


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